Kelly the Culinarian: Guest Post: How to Run Back-to-Back Marathons from Erica Finds

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Guest Post: How to Run Back-to-Back Marathons from Erica Finds

So I just finished the Circular Logic Marathon a week ago. What's next? Why, the Vermont Marathon with Cabot Fit Team, of course. I've never run two marathons so close together, so I tapped my blogging buddy Erica for advice. She's a smart cookie, and here's what she has to say.

Kelly asked me to weigh in on her training and recovery for her eight week apart “back to back” marathons. I am not a certified running coach, or a health professional, but I have run 37 marathons including several within three to eight weeks of one another. In 2007, I ran three marathons in two months and in 2006, I ran a PR in a back to back marathon (and then two more marathons that year.) So, take what I say here with a grain of salt, I guess. It is my advice, but not the only advice.

Fleet Feet said I was an “expert” for running 100+ half marathons…

I was interested to see what the real experts say, so I googled it. Runner’s World says “Plan Carefully.” They say to:
1.      Evaluate Your First Race – Did you go for broke? Get a PR? Fall short of your goals? Set a realistic goal for marathon #2 based on marathon #1.
2.      Assess Your Fitness
3.      Strategize Your Timing
4.      Resist Shortcuts – “Running back-to-back marathons abbreviates the typical schedule–once you've recovered from the first race, it's nearly time to start tapering for the second. ‘The priority has to be recovery,’ Pfitzinger says. If you have four weeks between events, recover for two and taper for one. If you have six weeks between starts, recover for two and taper for two. Runners with eight to 12 weeks between events should block out three weeks each for the recovery and taper.” [I agree with this approach.]
5.      Maintain Intensity – if you are going for time, do speed work and interval training after the recovery period as you would for a “stand alone” marathon.
6.      Manage Expectations – Set realistic goals based on time between races and how you feel post race #1.
I like this advice. It is very reasonable and realistic. I also asked two of my favorite runners who both turned in amazing back to back performances last year. Annabelle said, “I haven't written [this] but did 3 marathons in 12 weeks this fall. I read a lot about multiple marathoning and them ignored it all and went by feel.” [She came in 1st female in two of said races including one that was super bada**!] Erin agreed, she said, “Haha, I'd agree. Listening to your body is of paramount importance here. Goals, racing, etc. can be made in the heat of the moment, or as you're recovering, but keep everything day to day. A plan is helpful...but throw that shit away if you need to.” [She ran wicked fast times in Chicago AND NYC last year, a few weeks apart.]
Conventional wisdom says take 26 days off, or light, after a marathon (one per mile). I have never believed in, or followed, this approach. I think the most important thing is to listen to your body. Are you sore? Do your legs feel heavy? Do you feel lethargic? If so, take more rest. Your base should last for 3 – 4 weeks with very modest training. For Kelly’s eight week gap, I would say:
·       Take one week to 10 days rest/cross train/light jogging and then get back to your training.
·       Start the long runs with 10-12 miles and then increase a few weeks before you taper.
·       Plan a 20 miler, but if you don’t feel great, bail on it. You know you can go the distance.
·       Do the speed work and intervals if you are going for a time.
·       Focus on nutrition and making sure you have your race fuel strategy fine tuned.
·       Relax and enjoy!
I love the Vermont City Marathon and predict great things for Kelly this Memorial Day Weekend!

Erica lives and runs in Chicago. Erica blogs at Erica Finds. She is more of a blogging runner than running blogger, but writes on health, fitness, running, travel, deals and ideas - anything that she finds that could be of interest!


kathyo said...

Great post, I know it's not the same as a full but I have a lot of halfs close together this year, I'll keep this in mind. BTW I nominated you for a Liebster award, you probably got one already but if you are interested in accepting the details are on my blog :)

Pete B said...

I have never attempted such a feat but I think Erica's best advice is to bail on the 20 miler if you're not feeling it. Your fitness will probably only fade slightly between the two marathons, so don't overdo things. Better to be well-rested and healthy for the second one than to be exhausted and not feeling it on race day.

Unknown said...

If you let your body recover well and absorb the first marathon, your second marathon can definitely get a boost from the prior one.

I would definitely take at least a week completely off, and not do any fatiguing training for at least two more weeks. Intensity would be the focus of the month before marathon #2. You've got the base and the volume, I think a runner would get the most out of staying neurologically sharp via low volume and good intensity.